The end of the Euro

I’ve been predicting this since it was forced upon the people of Europe. Now, the first material signs of its demise have appeared:

Are quasi-drachmas being issued?

These financial instruments are bonds, and have all the characteristics of Hellenic Republic Bonds: they bear international securities identification numbers (ISINs); they are negotiable on the Athens Exchange and they rank pari passu with other Greek debt. The government, in one of its press releases, notes that “bondholders who choose to discount these bonds at the banks will crystallise a 19% discount versus their original claim.”

We would argue, however, that they are more than just another bond issued by the Greek government. To be specific, they seem to us very akin to what economists call quasi-monies. These quasi-monies have appeared in a number of cases, usually put in place by government to find an escape valve out of nominal fiscal rigidities in the face of a financing issue. This especially happens in a case of a government of a monetary union that cannot print money to fund its deficit….

If a country issues a bond as repayment, even temporarily, for a supplier, then there is no withdrawal of money from the private sector as no-one purchases the bond with cash. It is a form of barter in which the vendor provides a good to the administration and receives a financial instrument created ex nihilo from the same government.

There have already been possibly apocryphal reports of Italians using lira and Spaniards using pesetas. But this is the first time that an EU government is printing a new monetary instrument that can be used in exchange for goods and services.